I learned tonight that the cattle in my friend’s Black Angus herd actually DO recognize me and relate me with food. As in providing them with food. That sure beats them NOT recognizing me and deciding to trample me under their collective cloven hooves.
It’s been a week since I’ve talked with the herd and walked among them, so I headed out to say hello. I walked their fence line to check on any spots that may need repairs and, as I neared the end of a section, heard a lot of commotion from the cattle that had been (note the past tense) grazing in the distance. Turning around, I saw that the ENTIRE HERD, led by the bull and the steer and a few cows, had converged upon me. As in up close and personal. There I was, near the woven wire fence topped with barbed wire, surrounded by cattle in a 180 degree area. Yes, it was intimidating. Yes, I was scared. That’s a lot of cattle and only one of me! But after I decided not to try vaulting the fence, I noticed they were not aggressive – the bull wasn’t kicking up dust and snorting and the other bovines weren’t behaving badly. They were just moving closer – it reminded me of when I’d fed them hay in the winter. (It also reminded me of that scene in Star Wars when the sides of the trash compactor start moving in on Princess Leia and Han Solo and Luke; I’m probably missing a character.) When it snowed a few months ago, the herd would crowd around the tractor as I was driving and follow the hay to the bale feeder. I’d noticed in my walk that the grass in their field had been grazed low and their constant, urgent mooing indicated that they were just plain hungry. A neighboring herd always sounds like this at dinner time. I felt a bit better. But that was still a lot of cattle hemming me in. So I talked to them, held out my hands to show I had no food (all the while praying that they wouldn’t get mad at my empty palms – out of apple chunks) and tried channeling “compassion” and “empathy” to the herd as best I could.
When the cattle had settled down a bit, I managed to get to Spot, my “pet” cow, and stroked her head. I felt even better, having Spot between me and the rest of her Black Angus buddies. I was inwardly hoping she would act as a protector if needed, even though reality told me she probably could have cared less about my welfare! It seemed that the herd had calmed down some because the mooing had decreased in intensity, so I thought it was safe to shoo the nearest cattle away so I could walk along the fence. Yep, they were that close. Good thing I like them! Good thing they seem to like me! I was followed closely by the steer, a big three-year old that takes apples almost from my hand, and several cows, then by the REST. OF. THE. HERD. I felt like the Pied Piper! I walked to the gate in the middle of the field and climbed over, landing awkwardly on a rock and spraining my ankle. I just gripped tightly onto the gate while the cattle watched. They showed no concern for my pain. Darn. If Spot had even slimed me sympathetically with her tongue, it would’ve helped the pain subside. The cattle just wanted hay. I hobbled carefully across the meadow, looking out for groundhog holes, to a neighbor’s place, who called a friend to drive me home. It was such a welcome relief to sit down on the neighbor’s back step!
As I waited for my ride, the neighbor said, “Those cattle REALLY like you!” several times. I’m not sure if he said it seriously or just to be kind, but he could still see the cluster of the 35 or so cattle near the gate I’d climbed over. It would be nice to think that I’d somehow earned their trust over the last few months. I’m grateful that they like me enough to NOT trample me. And I will do my best to get them hay tomorrow!
I do love it here!